Are Horizontal or Vertical Bed Slats Better?

Horizontal or Vertical Bed Slats

On average, an individual will sleep approximately 26 years in their lifetime, equating to more than 9,000 days and more than 227,000 hours. People also spend a total of seven years in our lifetime trying to get to sleep. Why do individuals have trouble getting to sleep? It could be you are sleeping on the wrong mattress support.

Consumers spend hours trying to find the right mattress, but may not consider what is supporting that mattress. Bed slats go underneath a mattress and should be placed horizontally for standard-sized beds because it allows the mattress to breathe, but vertical bed slats work fine for thinner beds.

If you have shopped for bed slats, you probably had to choose between metal or wood slats, and standard or sprung slats. What you may not have realized is you should also decide if you want your bed slats to run horizontally or vertically. This article will discuss what bed slats are and why placing them horizontally is important and more popular. 

What Are Bed Slats?

Bed slats are either wood or metal planks that run either horizontally or vertically to hold a mattress on a platform bed. The slats themselves are usually placed two to three inches apart so that they support the weight of the mattress, and those sleeping on the mattress, evenly throughout the entire bed. There are different types of bed slats:

  • Wooden
  • Metal
  • Standard
  • Sprung

If you have a very large bed, you may have more than one column of bed slats running alongside each other and the boards can be a standard, flat plank or a more flexible, sprung plank. Just as their name implies, the sprung planks allow for more flexibility, movement, and softness, while standard planks offer more firmness for a sleeper.

Both wooden and metal bed slats are more affordable than other types of bed support and are much easier to install and move because the planks themselves are thin and light. You can also replace a bed slat if it does break in lieu of having to replace the entire bed. In addition, bed slats never go out of style and are aesthetically pleasing.

Bed slats are most appropriate for side, stomach, and back sleepers. Stomach sleepers may prefer standard slats because they are firmer, and both types of bed slats work for sleepers who get hot at night because they allow for more air circulation so that the sleeper can stay cool while catching some much-needed “Zzzz’s.” 

Should Bed Slats Be Horizontal or Vertical?

Slats Horizontal

It is best to run slats horizontally because it allows the mattress to breathe through the troughs better and this is as important as having a supportive structure for your bed. If you run slats vertically, you may have fewer openings for the mattress to breathe. This may be why most bed slats run horizontally, not vertically.

Mattresses themselves can be quite expensive, so slats are supposed to prolong the strength and durability of your mattress by providing support and preventing the mattress from sagging over time. Since a mattress should always be in a fully horizontal position, it would make sense that the bed slats should be holding it up horizontally.

Because your mattress will be breathing easier, the horizontal bed slats will also help with the hygienics of your mattress. The last thing you want to do is sleep in mold, bacteria, or even worse, nasty bedbugs. Bed slats are moisture resistant and dry, so they will not accumulate unwanted bacteria, molds, or bedbugs.

Does this mean bed slats should never be purchased if they are placed vertically? Not necessarily. Vertically bed slats could work well for narrower, single beds, platform beds, bunk beds, or daybeds and would more than likely support these types of beds very well. They just should not be used for much larger mattresses or wide beds. 

Pros and Cons of Bed Slats

As discussed above, bed slats are affordable, stylish, and help maintain the cleanliness and hygiene of your mattress. They are also durable and will not wear down easily, yet can be replaced if damaged. Metal slats in particular are very durable and it is unlikely they will break or show signs of wear and tear versus wooden bed slats.

Unlike solid platform bases, bed slats also give you storage space since the bed slats are raised up off of the floor. That way, you can store items you do not need underneath your slat bed as long as it is not too low to the ground. You can even purchase slat beds with built-in drawers which are stylish and convenient for additional storage.

There are some downsides to using bed slats. First, they will probably come unassembled and will require you to assemble it yourself. But, it was already discussed that assembly is usually easy, although inconvenient. If you purchase wooden slats, they could warp and sag over time if they are in a damper environment with moisture. 

Alternatives to Bed Slats

The bed slats may also sag if they are placed more than three inches apart, so you will want to make sure you assemble them between two and three inches apart. For example, memory foam is prone to sagging between slats. Finally, if you are using a thinner mattress, you may want to use one of the alternatives to a bed slat:

  • Box Springs
  • Solid Foundation
  • Adjustable Foundation
  • Bunkie Boards
  • Platform Bed

Solid foundations are superior for firming up a mattress, while bed slats are more breathable and adjustable bed frames allow you to change your sleeping angle. The choice of foundation really depends on the type of mattress, the height you want your bed, and the aesthetics you are looking for inside your bedroom. 

Luckily, most mattresses will work well on bed slats, such as memory foam, latex foam, innerspring, and hybrid mattresses. Some individuals do like to use a box spring for an innerspring mattress for added height, while other sleepers like to pair bed slats with a Bunkie board for added support and height. 

How to Choose a Mattress Foundation

Choosing horizontal bed slats versus vertical bed slats depends on the type and size of your mattress. If you have a mattress that is narrow, such as a bunk bed, daybed, or narrow platform bed, vertical bed slats should work fine. However, anything wider and larger would benefit more from horizontal bed slats so your mattress can breathe.

If you find bed slabs may not be for you, there are other choices. For years, box springs were the standard when it came to mattress support, which is a wooden box that is made to be the same size as your bed and filled with springs or a metal grid and wrapped in fabric. There are definitely more options for support out there today. 

You need to make sure your mattress foundation supports you effectively as you sleep and does not allow your mattress to sag, sink, or slide off the bed. If your mattress does not have the right base, it will not support you effectively while you sleep. You will start to be uncomfortable as indents form in the mattress and your support declines. 

You want a foundation that does the following: 

  • Improves the lifespan of the mattress
  • Adds the proper amount of height to your bed (anywhere from 16 to 23 inches)
  • Keeps your mattress clean
  • Improves airflow
  • Keeps your mattress in place 

As long as your bed slats are placed two to three inches apart horizontally for wide, large beds or vertically for smaller beds, they should support all the needs of a foundation listed above. The key is to not purchase bed foundations that are cheap, as this is the one item where you get what you pay for in the end. 


Bed slats are made from solid wood planks or metal beams that are laid across the bed frame. They are either individual slats or a connected series of planks that are attached to the sides of the frame. Whether they should be placed horizontally or vertically depends on the size of the bed, but most bed slats will be found horizontally.  


Hi there! I’m Alex, the one behind this website. I ran and operated a Local Furniture Store in Southern California. The store opened in 2010, during the “Great Recession,” It is still thriving today; however, I have dedicated my time to helping our online customer base. My primary focus is to help you with all your furniture & mattress questions.

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